Madan no Ou to Vanadis:Volume 01 Chapter3 - MTL
|This text is a machine translation (MTL).
Be warned that the degree of translation error may be higher than usual.
This page was created before the updated (July 19, 2015) MTL guidelines and has not been reviewed.
Chapter 3 - The Vanadis' Invitation and the Maid's Prayer
Tigre was called by Elen the next morning.
After the events from the day before, he immediately returned to his room.
While being guided by Lim, Tigre spoke in embarrassment, his red hair a mess.
“... It won't go down.”
He glanced about anxiously. The soldiers, chamberlains, and maids who passed by all looked at him oddly.
Whether it was out of awe or in interest, he could not tell. Tigre had never been looked at with such eyes, so he was confused.
“Why is everyone staring at me?”
He asked Lim when it became unbearable. She twisted her neck a little and looked at Tigre with a side glance, responding with an aloof tone.
“Eleanora-sama will explain.”
--- Well, whatever. I guess I'll find out shortly.
Before long, Lim stopped before a certain door.
“Eleanora-sama, I have brought Earl Vorn.”
She spoke as she knocked on the door. A response was returned immediately as they heard “Enter.”
Lim pushed open the door and told Tigre to follow her.
It was an office.
Though it was a small room, a regal carpet was laid on the floor. The candelabra, the desk, and the chair were all golden knit rattan. The windows were large.
“Please wait a moment. I will be finished shortly.”
Elen sat at the desk, her pen running across the document.
The documents were piled up like a mountain at the side of the desk and were likely already processed. Tigre leaked a breath of admiration seeing the large amount.
Two flags decorated the wall behind her.
One on display was the ZirnitraBlack Dragon Flag, the symbol of Zhcted Kingdom.
The other was a flag with a sword of silver on a black background. This was Elen's flag. Tigre remembered seeing it on the battlefields of Dinant.
Beneath the flag, the longsword in its sheathe leaned against the wall. It was placed in a position where Elen could grasp it immediately.
Elen looked down at the document and suddenly frowned.
It seems she wrote something incorrectly. She crumpled the paper in a ball and threw it into the waste basket in the corner of the room in a violent manner.
The ball of paper dropped to the floor beside the waste basket.
Elen stared at the paper, perhaps out of anger, or perhaps she was not thinking of anything at all.
Tigre was not sure why Elen had such an expression. She looked down at the other papers, her expression now hidden. Lim picked it up.
“Paper is a precious resource. Please do not waste it.”
Elen was scolded like a child. She returned to her documents and completed her work quickly.
“Did it take time to wake him up today?”
“No, he awoke when I called for him.”
Lim responded. Tigre diverted his eyes awkwardly.
Actually, he jumped out of bed the moment Lim stood in front of his room.
--- It was the same feeling... as if confronting a feral creature while hunting in the mountain or woods at night. I felt signs of a dangerous beast.
In other words, Tigre's instinct recognized her dangerous existence. Of course, because he could not say such things, he remained silent.
“Are you now conscious that you are a prisoner of war?”
Elen stood up, laughing like a child. Taking the longsword in her hand, she walked around to the front of the desk and faced Tigre.
“I apologize for yesterday.”
She lowered her head seriously, surprising Tigre. He looked back at Lim who remained silent. It seems she was telling him it would be fine to turn around.
“What do you mean?”
“The bow given to you. I did not think they would give you such a poor one.”
--- Like I thought, it was badly made.
Though Tigre was relieved, he was amazed by the words which followed.
“The three men who did that will have their heads taken---”
“No, wait a moment.”
Tigre interrupted Elen's words in a panic.
“Certainly, they played a terrible trick, but isn't that going a bit far?”
“That trick... Aren't you angry?”
Elen looked at Tigre curiously.
“Those three laughed at you before many others and tried to dishonor you. They will compensate with their deaths.”
--- That's overdoing it.
Certainly, he was angry at the time.
However, when he looked straight at Elen, Tigre could not say so. He would not feel good if they died for something like that.
“Will you allow me to forgive them?”
Elen looked dissatisfied, though she did not refuse.
“If you wish it, I will do so. It will not happen again.”
Her skirt moved as she turned back to the window frame and sat on it. Elen held her longsword in her arms and crossed her shapely legs.
His eyes were attracted to her white thighs. Tigre consciously looked.
Her skirt came into sight, and above it, her belly. He could not afford to stare at her chest – after all, he was a prisoner in enemy territory.
Tigre looked further up. A simple face stared at him.
“By the way, why did you have me do such a thing yesterday?”
“That's right, I never told you... Lim.”
Lim's name was called. Her blue Irises held an unfriendly expression as she reluctantly responded.
“Including me, many of the soldiers expressed frustration that our commanding officer and general, Eleanora-sama, who has not once taken a prisoner in her many campaigns, decided to hold you captive.”
“So I'm your first prisoner of war.”
“Yes. Because of that, a foolish rumor went about the soldiers.”
“The rumor was that I fell in love with you at a glance.”
Tigre went wide-eyed hearing Elen's words.
“A love in the battlefield, a love that arose between enemies... It seems like something out of a drama, everyone enjoys talking about such things. Well, perhaps it wasn't a mistake. It was not quite love, but I was certainly charmed.”
“You were charmed... by me?”
“Your skill with the bow. Unfortunately, it was not you.”
Elen responded with a radiant smile. Tigre returned the joke with a shrug of his shoulder.
“Thank you. It would be embarrassing since we had not spoken.”
“Can a woman like me not fall in love without speaking to you?”
“It requires time to see my merit.”
“Though your peculiar habit of sleeping late was noticed immediately.”
Lim attacked his known weakness. Elen continued pressing Tigre relentlessly.
“So, how many women have you fallen in love with until now?”
Tigre silently raised both hands in surrender.
Unless he was particularly handsome or a wealthy noble, he would have no reason to encounter a young noble girl. It was impossible for him.
“In any case, many soldiers have overreacted to the rumor. We hoped to stop it at its source.”
Elen turned her ill-natured yet joyful eyes to Lim, like a cat teasing a rat.
“I merely stated there was a rumor.”
Lim's expression did not change, but she caught Elen's glance and responded.
“I simply needed to have the associated parties come out. I figured the quickest way to shut them up was to show them your skill. It was more effective than I anticipated.”
“You only had to explain it to me when we met.”
“It's fine, since the result spoke for itself. Was there a need to tell you? You are a prisoner I took from Dinant for a ransom. Of course, it was my benevolence that kept you alive, though really, you entertained me for a bit.”
“I entertained you?”
Tigre frowned hearing the unexpected words. Elen nodded, her face showing her sincerity.
“To begin with, that battle was terrible. It was disappointing and trivial.”
Her face was full of disappointment. Elen spat those words out; the wind blew her silver-white hair softly from the window.
“We had five thousand troops. You had five times that, twenty-five thousand. Before entering the battlefield, I used all my wisdom to prepare many plans, since I thought it would be a difficult battle. Still, it ended in only half a day.”
“Isn't it good to win that easily?”
“Lim said the same thing.”
Tigre noticed Lim half-glaring at Elen. Her eyes unwillingly turned away.
“I also think it never hurts to have an easy win; however, we won with only the initial plan. It was boring.”
“The first plan, I see, the surprise pincer attack from behind at dawn.”
This was confirmation rather than a question. Though Tigre judged it to be the case at the time, he did not see the entire battlefield.
Sure enough, Elen nodded.
“I scouted the area beforehand. The Brune Army was divided into the forward and the rear guard. Though the vanguard's morale was high, the same could not be said of the rear. I attracted the forward's attention with four thousand troops and attacked the rear with the rest. It was more fragile than I expected, since I could fight after dividing my troops. The Prince died as a bonus as well.”
“His Highness died...?”
Tigre spoke up involuntarily. It was his first time hearing this.
“Were you close?”
Tigre shook his head after collecting himself.
“I spoke to him once long ago. That was all.”
As an Earl who lived at the edge of the kingdom, it was impossible for him to become intimate with the Prince. Tigre was hardly shocked, though.
He was not meant for war.
Looking at things from a distance, the Prince had always given a delicate impression.
“Do you hold a grudge against me?”
Because her voice was earnest and she looked at Tigre seriously, Tigre answered sincerely.
“It would be a lie to say there were no ill feelings, but it was a battle. I, too, killed soldiers of Zhcted.”
However, he may not be able to maintain such a firm attitude should he hear of Mashas or Bertrand's death.
--- Though an aristocrat of Brune, I hardly have a strong loyalty to the Royal Family...
Elen exhaled slightly and gave an expression of relief.
“Let's continue our conversation. When the death of the Prince was spread, the vanguard collapsed. The enemy ran away, and we routed them out. It was disappointing.”
Though he could not understand her disappointment, he felt it selfish. Still, Tigre nodded slightly.
“At that time, I met you.”
A pair of bright red eyes gazed softly at Tigre.
“I was impressed you could accurately shoot an arrow from a distance of three hundred alsin... In a situation where all your allies were dead or fleeing, you retained your will to fight and acted without signs of desperation. You acted calmly. I was surprised you were trying to kill me. Really, I liked it.”
Lim, hearing those words, gave a sigh.
“Even so, please do not rush forward on your own.”
“Well, it would have been dangerous if we didn't approach him, right? We were lucky he only had four arrows.”
“It is as you say, but that is not your role, Eleanora-sama.”
Lim coldly rejected Elen's protests.
The brows of the Vanadis with silver-white hair looked troubled as she looked to Tigre for help.
“If it was someone other than me, are you certain they would survive?”
--- Her expression changes so much.
During battle, he saw her as a dignified commander. Until a moment ago, her expressions were like a child, and now she was looking for a companion in her mischief.
“Is this really the situation to say that?”
“An arrow shot from your bow would be fatal, I think you can say that.”
“If you're the one saying that, it sounds sarcastic.”
If Elen said it, it sounded sarcastic to Tigre. If Tigre said it, it sounded sarcastic to Lim. Lim exuded a strong silence. Though Tigre appealed to her with a glance, he was ignored. Not understanding why, Tigre looked to Elen.
“When you rushed at me, what I needed to do did not change. I only aimed at you and shot. Even if I could not move from my position, the arrow should have reached you. That is why the result would not change. It was my defeat.”
“You obediently accepted your defeat.”
“You struck down an arrow with your sword, it was my first time seeing such a thing. I thought only heroes of legend could do that.”
“Your arrow accurately hit the forehead of Lim's horse. I thought you would aim at mine as well.”
Though she thought she would be victorious, her attitude was not unfitting. Elen tenderly stroked the sheathe of the sword in her arms.
“When I struck down your arrow, my heart was beating violently. When you shot your second arrow, I couldn't help but admire your skill in being able to accurately shoot at the same position in such a short time; I was impressed. If you had a third arrow, you really may have hit me with our distance shrinking.”
Elen took a deep breath, her throat now dry.
Lim poured water from a pitcher into a ceramic cup on the desk and presented it to her. She drank it down in one gulp and turned back to Tigre.
“I thought it would be regrettable to kill you. Since it's not my hobby to spend my time leisurely talking on the battlefield, I brought you to Leitmeritz for negotiation.”
She crossed her legs, now entirely off the floor. Elen wore a smile, her red eyes looking straight at Tigre.
“Will you serve me?”
This time, Tigre looked at Elen's face in surprise.
“I will treat you as an Earl of Brune. You will be given an appropriate salary and title. Though I can't give you territory, that may change depending on your work. You can also earn a peerage and high-ranking title. Unlike in Brune, your distinguished services will not be discriminated against.”
“... Are you serious?”
It was an attractive proposition. It was difficult to believe.
Due to the tension and excitement, his face turned red.
His palms were sweaty, his chest pounded violently.
Though small, Elen firmly bowed her head in assent.
“I want you.”
Tigre's face turned even more red. He played with his bangs to hide it.
There were no signs of a lie in Elen's words.
For a lie, it was far too convoluted.
--- In Brune, I can't expect such treatment.
In that country, there was contempt for the bow, and it was a large obstacle. In battles against other countries, the aristocrats who consisted of archers had to help.
That much was a given.
However, when the war ended, not a single word of appreciation was given, nor was there a reward.
“Far beyond the reach of the enemy's swords and spears, you can shoot an arrow. Compared to the soldiers who fight up close, what can you do?”
An aristocrat who organized an archery unit could not overturn the situation.
What more could Tigre, a minor aristocrat, do?
It was different in this country.
Elen, at least, evaluated him fairly.
For an archer, it was desirable.
However, Tigre answered in such a manner.
“I am thankful for your invitation. I doubt I will ever receive such an invitation again, even if I lived another century.”
“Then why have you refused my hand?”
Elen did not show any disappointment, she simply asked for a reason.
“There is a place I must protect, a place I must return to.”
Tigre continued with a strong tone.
“Alsace. It is a territory I inherited from my father. It is far from the center of the country and is amongst the forests and mountains. There are only four villages and a small town... However, I cannot throw it aside.”
Hearing that word, Elen's beautiful eyebrows knit slightly.
“Doesn't that territory border this country?”
“It is separated by only one mountain.”
Tigre nodded and responded. Elen sat on the window frame once again.
“Your spirit is praiseworthy, but will you not think of the future?”
Elen spoke up, her expression thrown off.
“You are here now, and you could lead a good life... however, if the ransom is not paid by the deadline, I will sell you to a merchant from Muozinel.”
A cold sweat spread on Tigre's forehead.
Muozinel was the kingdom of heat which lay to the southeast of Brune and south of Zhcted Kingdom.
The peoples' skin was dark, and it was established one hundred years after Brune and Zhcted.
If a ransom was not paid, in order to receive money, a prisoner of war was sold to Muozinel. It was a time-tested method.
“So you understand. Even then, are you prepared to live a miserable life?”
“If, if the ransom is not paid, the decision is yours.”
Though he started strong, Tigre's voice still trembled.
“Oh? Yesterday, you had the negotiation skills to demand I reduce the ransom. Seeing that, I thought you were prepared, even for death. I thought it would be a shame to let such a brave man die a pitiable death. I'm surprised.”
Sure of her superiority, with her arms crossed while gripping her sword, Elen glared at Tigre. He had difficulty responding.
“... I can hardly lower my head superficially and look for a chance to run away.”
Lim, who refrained from intruding, looked on in silence.
Though Tigre was exhausted from Elen's attacks, the expression she had was unusual as she turned to Lim and blinked several times. Afterward, she silently shrugged her shoulder.
Lim looked at Elen questioningly for a moment, but said nothing.
“The business from before, have you heard anything?”
When asked, Tigre recalled momentarily.
“Yesterday, who was the man I shot?”
“He was an assassin after my life.”
Tigre opened his mouth widely hearing Elen's careless answer.
“It's hardly unusual. They appear every month. I've become quite bored of them.”
“You're bored with assassins...”
Given Elen's buoyant attitude, it really was a frequent occurrence. She spoke of it as if it were an animal call or insect making noise.
It was humorous seeing how tense he was yesterday.
“However, it was quite dangerous yesterday. I wish to express my gratitude.”
“Who is the mastermind?”
“He committed suicide after that, so we don't know. Even though you took the effort to capture him, that happened. Sorry.”
“It's not a big deal, but is it okay not knowing? His partner, that is.”
“So you're worried.”
Surprised by his response, Elen's bright red eyes blinked. After that, she smiled sweetly.
“How cute, you.”
“No... It's something unrelated to me, but it's your enemy...”
He was embarrassed and immersed in her smile. Tigre, in confusion, tried to return to the conversation.
“Even if you say that, there's more than one or two. The power of the Vanadis is something exclusive to the King, it is a large power. It's not like I particularly caused anyone a grudge.”
--- Is it courage? Resolution... It really must be a big deal, then.
Tigre gave a sound of admiration. If the concerned party said that much, he would not pursue any further.
“In the end... The assassin's bolt, why did it not hit you?”
“I wonder why?”
Elen tilted her head cutely and played dumb.
“You should understand just by looking. Fortunately, the wind blew the arrow away.”
“Then Arifar, is it some spell which changes the movement of the wind?”
He clearly heard it. Though Tigre returned Elen's gaze, she did not flinch or show any sign of worry.
“If you're interested, you should investigate yourself. I'm not so kind a teacher that I would teach a poor student.”
“... Are you giving me the freedom to act?”
“It would be troublesome if you got sick from staying in your room all day. I will permit you to walk around in public, so long as you are supervised. However, should you approach the ramparts near the Imperial Palace, I will consider you to be attempting an escape. Anything else?”
Tigre shook his head. In his situation, only a desperate future awaited if he tried to escape, but if he remained, he would not be confined.
“I see. Then you may return to your room.”
Tigre left the office and followed Lim.
“Ah, are you taking me to my room?”
“No, I must speak to Eleanora-sama, so I shall leave it to another person.”
Lim denied his question with an unfriendly face.
“Please tell me one thing. Why did you not accept Eleanora-sama's condition, even if only in form?”
Lim's blue eyes looked at Tigre with a quizzical gaze. He answered her question seriously.
“To do so would mean betraying Alsace. Then I would also be betraying the Vanadis.”
“You are a captive. Eleanora-sama is your enemy. It would not be a betrayal.”
“Even then, it would be deception.”
Tigre simply shrugged his shoulders.
“She was earnest in her offer, so I considered the proposal honestly.”
Doubt disappeared in her blue eyes and was replaced by another emotion.
Lim called the nearby soldier on patrol to a stop and ordered him to send Tigre to his room before returning to the office.
Elen sat before the desk, pouring water from the pitcher.
“Lord Tigrevurmud has been seen off.”
Taking a sip of water, Elen spoke words of appreciation. Without any introductory remarks, Lim asked a question.
“Is it fine to give him the freedom to move about?”
Her eyebrows showed her doubt. Elen watched the face of her unsociable subordinate.
“I restricted it to public places. Are there any problems?”
“Alsace is his territory, directly across the mountains. He might escape from Leitmeritz.”
Lim did not think Tigre would try to escape.
--- Still, others may think differently.
From his conversation with Elen, Lim held those thoughts about Tigre. If nothing else, she thought he would remain quiet.
However, it is impossible to predict the future.
“Certainly it is bordering our lands, but the distance is not so short that he could reach it within a day or two. Besides, he does not even know the lay of the land.”
“When he became a prisoner, from Dinant to the Imperial Palace, he looked up at the skies every night until he slept... He was looking at the stars.”
“So he was gazing at the stars, did he write a poem?”
Elen laughed as she teased Lim. She understood precisely what Lim meant.
By looking at the stars every night, he could confirm his position.
“If he looks at a map, he can easily find the roads.”
“Though you say he could escape so simply, won't it be troublesome? It's not easy to slip out of the Imperial Palace, and, though he is free to act, he is under surveillance.”
“Let us assume he is able to slip away from surveillance. What then?”
“This entire city is surrounded by walls. If he managed to escape, we need only close the gate immediately.”
“Suppose he broke through the gate.”
“... Even if that is the case, it would take at least ten days to walk to the Vosyes Mountains. Also, there is only one path across that series of steep mountains. Even if he managed to make it past the gate, we would simply have to block that path. I can't possibly imagine him being able to do anything more.”
Lim did not back down, even if she explained that far in advance.
She could not stand aside indifferently in this argument.
“However, he is thinking of his lands. You cannot assert that he will do nothing reckless.”
“In other words, you are telling me to prepare for the worst. If you are going that far, then I will tell you, I am prepared to kill him. Is that enough for you?”
Elen leaned toward Lim, who was bowing deeply, her eyes opened widely, deep in observation.
“No, I thought you disliked Tigre a lot... You did not have a good first impression, I suppose. However, I don't feel that much enmity. It isn't as bad anymore, I guess.”
Lim did not respond. It was as Elen said. Her insight was certainly surprising.
“There is something I wish to confirm.”
In order to change the conversation, Lim avoided answering.
“Were you seriously considering making him your subordinate?”
“Are you dissatisfied?”
“Certainly, he is an excellent archer, but the use of a bow is only useful when gathered in numbers. How you could use him alone, I could not even guess.”
In a battle, having a line of archers shower arrows on the enemy as the armies approached for close-quarters combat was normal.
Though shooting enemies from a distance could work, the principle weapon in battle fell to short-distance arms such as swords. The bow and arrow was not recognized as part of the main force.
“Would you like to hear?”
Elen's face was like a child that thought of something fun to play. She explained proudly.
“You have one thousand soldiers guard him by assaulting the enemy force.”
“While the soldiers are holding off the enemy, he can shoot and kill the enemy Generals and Commanders. With the right timing, he withdraws. By doing this, even against tens of thousands of troops, he could throw the enemy into disarray. An army without a Commander is like a herd of sheep without a shepherd. It would easily collapse with just a little force.”
Her mouth was loose, as if she had already won.
“Are you saying that seriously?”
Though Lim's expression did not change, her voice sounded amazed with a mix of coldness. Elen sighed as she crossed her arms.
“In any era, innovative tactics are things difficult to understand.”
“There are also many tactics rejected by our predecessors because there are fatal flaws.”
“... Well, I was half joking.”
Of course, she was hinting that she was half serious. Elen looked up at Lim from her desk.
“My battle is not one that is always on the battlefield where armies collide. There are times where individual strength is necessary as well, Lim. Tell me, how far can you shoot an arrow?”
“At most, one-hundred-sixty alsin. However, if I wish to inflict a wound, one hundred alsin is my limit.”
“And what of the greatest archer in the Imperial Palace?”
“That would be Rurick. His record is a distance of two-hundred-seventy alsin.”
Rurick was the man who passed the inferior bow to Tigre out of mischief.
“In other words, Rurick's ability with the bow is inferior to Tigre's.”
Confronted with the cold fact, Lim fell silent.
In fact, his skill was experienced that day in Dinant.
Tigre shot an arrow from a long distance such that Lim did not notice at all. She had fallen from the horse, but it was possible she could have died.
--- Even if I had noticed, I would not be able to knock the arrow away like Eleanora-sama.
“The bow is looked down upon in Brune, so I didn't think there would be a man of such caliber. No, perhaps his talent was buried because they dislike archery. Still, I am serious in wanting to employ Tigre. He is strong. That value should be sufficient.”
“Lord Tigrevurmud is.”
“Tigre's good, right? He also said so as well.”
“... Lord Tigrevurmud is.”
Though in a thorny tone, Lim responded with a strong tone.
“Perhaps Eleanora-sama would like Alsace.”
“Maybe I should attack Alsace.”
Lim sighed, since her Lord said such terrible things so smoothly.
Furthermore, it was unclear if she meant it, since she was smiling.
“I will look after the boy for the time being. I'd like to see Tigre's reaction, since the ransom won't necessarily be prepared immediately. There's still time. Let me watch him a bit longer.”
“... As you wish.”
After bowing, Lim left the office. Elen picked up the longsword leaning against the wall.
As she stroked the sheath, a small wind blew, as if the sword responded to Elen's movement.
“Love at first sight, is it...? Impossible.”
She smiled bitterly at the thought. Placing the sword against the wall, Elen returned to her work.
Beyond the forest which spread to the west, the sun began to set.
“... Today, Tigre-sama did not return.”
Standing on the second floor balcony outside Tigre's room, Titta let out a sigh as she looked at the sky which shined a dark red.
This was Alsace in the Kingdom of Brune. It was Tigre's home.
Titta was left alone to take care of the house. It had been more than twenty days.
Since she quickly took care of her meals and the cleaning, she often finished before noon. There was also a stockpile of food, water, and alcohol.
If Tigre returned, she would pinch and raise her skirt immediately. With his room cleaned perfectly and a meal with alcohol prepared, he could relax immediately.
She also confirmed the contents of the medicine cabinet in case he was injured, and she was prepared to boil water immediately.
However, Tigre had not returned.
With her hand on the edge of the balcony, watching the sun and the blood-colored sky, Titta was attacked by a severe unease. It is possible Tigre-sama is...
He could not have died.
He will return soon.
The Brune Army suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Zhcted Army in Dinant. Since then, many evenings had passed, and the news of Prince Regnas' death had spread.
“It's fine. Tigre-sama said it would be safe in the rear.”
Even if she tried to persuade herself, her anxiety did not disappear.
Before long, the sun set. Titta left the house with a lantern in her possession.
She locked the doors beforehand.
Tigre's mansion was in the heart of the town of Celesta. Although it was called a town, it was not much larger than a village.
Beneath the night sky, Titta quietly walked into the town wrapped in gray. Titta moved humbly, her feet stopping before a small temple.
When she knocked on the wooden door, a wrinkled old woman, whose body was covered in a shrine maiden's garb, appeared.
“You've come, Titta.”
“I will be in your care, today.”
When Titta bowed, her chestnut-brown twin tails shook. The old shrine maiden smiled and invited Titta inside the temple.
Built out of stone and wood, it was a small temple. The elder woman led Titta to a small room.
In the room was a bucket filled with purified water and a thin, pure, snow-white shrine maiden's clothing.
When she closed the door, Titta took care to remove the maid uniform she wore.
She undid her belt and apron and removed her long-sleeved coat and long skirt.
Her pure white body shined in the dim light of the lantern.
Though short for her age, she developed a body appropriate for a woman. Her arms and legs, though firm from her every day life, still retained their feminine softness.
Her body shook from the cold night air moving about the room.
Although she had done this every day, she was still unaccustomed to it.
Removing her undergarments, Titta was now the same as the day she was born. The only thing remaining were the ribbons in her chestnut-brown hair.
She squeezed water from the cloth and carefully wiped her body.
When Titta finished, she donned the pure-white shrine maiden's clothes.
The old shrine maiden wore clothes for every day purposes. They were unlike these adornments meant for prayer, the fabric was thin enough to show the curves of her body.
It was slightly better in the summer, with the cold air hitting Titta's body.
Titta left the room, tightly embracing herself.
She faced the altar in the interior of the temple.
The altar was a semi-spherical recess. Ten statues of the Pantheon of the Gods followed along the curve.
“Oh Gods in the Heavens.”
Kneeling before the altar, Titta held her hands together in worship. Her correct posture showed she completed her training as a shaman.
“Please grant Tigre-sama your blessings and return him safely.”
Since Tigre left the house, this prayer had become a daily routine for Titta.
Though Titta was a shrine maiden's daughter, she disliked learning to read and write in the temple, and she was not fond of singing hymns to the Gods.
She preferred spending her time with the woman working as a maid at the Lord's mansion. The reason was simple, the woman had always made candy for Titta.
She also seemed fond of performing her work. She cooked, cleaned, and sewed, something suited to Titta.
Titta walked to the mansion many times to visit the woman, and that is how she met Tigre.
As the only other child in the mansion, she and Tigre often talked to each other.
Titta came to play every day. Before she was aware, it was her role to wake Tigre, who slept until noon every day as a child.
“Tigre-sama. I helped auntie bake sweets. Do you want to eat with me?”
Titta presented a half-cooked, half-scorched cake she had baked.
A few days later, Tigre returned from a hunt and presented a gift to her, saying, “These gloves were made from the fur of rabbits. Thank you, Titta.”
Whenever Titta's training as a shrine maiden was difficult, she complained to Tigre.
She could only complain to Tigre.
“Tigre, isn't studying to be the Lord difficult?”
“It's not hard. I wish to follow after my father as his only son.”
Tigre added the last words as a small joke to her.
She repeated her training as a shrine maiden and watched, and sometimes helped, the woman work. She spoke to her mother when she turned 11.
“I don't want to be a shrine maiden. I want to work as a maid in the mansion.”
Naturally, her mother strongly opposed. Tigre was the one to put in a good word for her.
“Isn't it fine? It's fine if Titta doesn't focus only on her shrine maiden duties.”
The words of the Lord's son could not be ignored.
After all, knowledge and manners were necessary for a shrine maiden. According to the art of prayer, every tenth day, the maiden must return to the temple and offer prayer to the shrine. Accepting those conditions, Titta began work as a maid that summer.
Before then, Titta only had vague feelings toward Tigre. During that summer, those feelings completely took form.
Finishing her prayer and changing from her maiden's clothing, she left the shrine.
The golden moon shined brightly, shining its light on the cold ground.
Though she prayed every day, she was not sure they were heard by the Gods. Still, her anxiety was relieved.
She felt better.
“I will return tomorrow.”
Titta rushed home as she murmured to herself.
Against the night sky, a black silhouette came into view, stopping Titta's feet.
She could see two people before the fence surrounding the residence.
Titta was wary for a moment, but ran forward with a joyful look upon recognizing their identity.
“Bertrand-san! Mashas-sama! Welcome back!”
Light shined from the bronze chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Titta invited the two old men to the sitting room. She brought out water while the tea was being prepared.
“Mu, thank you, Titta.”
Mashas and Bertrand's clothes were worn and covered in mud and dust. Their gray hair was stiff and blotted in dry sweat.
They returned to Celesta after Titta set out for the temple. It seems they missed each other.
Bertrand, from the reserve funds left by Tigre, paid the soldiers. Since then, the two waited for Titta to return.
“Seven of our soldiers died, and thirty were injured. Though we were crushed by the enemy, most of our men escaped.”
Bertrand laughed weakly.
“You don't need to worry. We have treated the wounded and buried the dead.”
Mashas said this while looking at Bertrand.
Titta was anxious.
Between the two, Tigre's name was not mentioned. They were likely easing her into bad news.
Involuntarily, she leaned forward.
“What of Tigre-sama? Surely...”
“His death... is unlikely.”
Mashas, drenched in sweat, gave an ambiguous answer.
“I'm sorry, Titta.”
Tears floated to Bertrand's wrinkled face as he bowed.
“The Young Lord was captured by the enemy.”
Titta held her apron with both hands, holding back her shock.
“He was caught... What do you mean?”
“I shall explain it for you.”
Seeing Bertrand look apologetic, Mashas opened his mouth. He received a ransom from Eleanora, a Vanadis of Zhcted Kingdom.
Upon hearing the ransom amount, Titta nearly fainted again.
“Even if everything in this mansion was sold, it is impossible to gather that much!”
The amount was approximately three years worth of tax revenue from Alsace. There was a reserve of approximately one year, however, it took them a long time to save that much.
Furthermore, they had no time.
Ten days had passed since Eleanora's demand was delivered to the Kingdom of Brune. Only forty days remained.
“If we cannot afford the ransom, what will happen to Tigre-sama?”
“... Some prisoners, should they have some skill, must serve the enemy. Many become married to a local woman and spend their life as a prisoner of war.”
Most were sold to merchants of a foreign country. Their whereabouts were often lost afterward. The example Mashas gave was actually quite a rare occurrence.
“That can't be!”
Titta shouted loudly and struck the table. Bertrand and Mashas' cups shook.
“It can't be, Tigre-sama won't be coming back! And getting a wife...”
“W-Well, that's only if the time has passed. It does not necessarily mean it will happen immediately.”
Surprised by Titta's threatening attitude, Mashas added those words weakly.
“... I wonder if we can steal it somehow.”
Bertrand spoke up in a dark voice.
“Um, what of His Majesty?”
Without any plan, Titta asked Mashas.
“Will His Majesty not help Tigre-sama?”
Mashas fell silent with a scowl. That was his answer.
Mashas wanted to say something, but he would find it difficult to be honest.
There were a considerable number of casualties amongst his soldiers. Also, as an aristocrat of Brune, it was necessary he attend Prince Regnas' funeral.
The heavy silence dominated the room.
“... I see.”
Titta broke the silence.
“I will go around the towns and villages to borrow money.”
The two elder men looked up, hearing her determined words.
“Even if it is a single silver, even a copper coin, we can gather a lot. Tigre-sama has been the Lord for two years. Surely some will lend their aid.”
Mashas nodded in assent.
“I understand. Then, Titta, Bertrand, I will also try to find someone we may rely on.”
“Thank you very much, Mashas-sama!”
Titta smiled and bowed deeply.
She felt she could see some hope.
--- Tigre-sama, I will surely save you. Please wait!
|Back to Chapter 2 - MTL||Return to Main Page||Forward to Chapter 4 - MTL|